Max Verstappen leads Red Bull one-two as Charles Leclerc is forced to quit Spanish GP

Dutchman takes over at top from Ferrari driver in race for title

Max Verstappen of Red Bull celebrates after winning the Spanish Grand Prix in, Barcelona. EPA
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World champion Max Verstappen overcame a series of problems to triumph in the Spanish Grand Prix on Sunday and claim the lead in this year's title race.

On a day of anguish for Charles Leclerc and Ferrari, Verstappen's victory in a Red Bull one-two was his third in succession as he came home 13 seconds ahead of his Mexican partner Sergio Perez, with George Russell confirming Mercedes' revival by finishing third.

Leclerc, who had led the championship and dominated practice, set off convincingly from pole position until he was forced to retire his Ferrari with an engine failure, and has fallen to second in the title race with 104 points to the Dutchman's 110.

Beaten at the start, Verstappen was blown off the circuit and had technical problems, but he overcame them to produce a furious drive aided by his teammate's generosity for his second win at the Circuit de Catalunya, where he claimed his maiden victory as a teenager in 2016.

“I went off, when I had a lot of tailwind, and lost the rear,” said the 24-year-old Dutchman. “My DRS was not always working and that made it very tough, but we managed to use strategy to get ahead.

“It was a difficult beginning, but a good end! I tried to stay focused. It is not nice when stuff like that happens. I am very happy to win and happy for 'Checo' [Perez]. It is a great result for the team.”

Red Bull boss Christian Horner defended the team decision to order Perez to allow Verstappen to pass him. “It is our responsibility to bring both cars home. It was the right thing to do.”

Ferrari's Charles Leclerc talks with engineers following his car's breakdown. AFP

Russell said: “It was very tough today. I did all I could to hold Max off, but he did a great job. I would love to say Mercedes are back. I gave everything I could and I am proud to be standing here.”

Carlos Sainz came home fourth in the second Ferrari ahead of seven-time champion Lewis Hamilton, who produced an inspired drive in the second Mercedes after an opening lap collision.

In front of a sell-out crowd of 121,670 spectators, the race began in hot conditions with an air temperature of 36 degrees and the track surface registering 49.

Leclerc made a near-perfect start to lead Verstappen into Turn One while, behind him, Sainz struggled with his anti-stall mechanism allowing both Russell and Perez to pass him.

Kevin Magnussen started well and climbed to seventh before attacking Hamilton on the outside of Turn Four where they clashed, the Dane going off into a gravel area after leaving Hamilton with a front left puncture.

In his damaged car, Hamilton, 19th, suggested he retired. “I would save this engine, guys, I'm sorry,” he said. Mercedes told him to continue.

At the front, Leclerc built a clear lead before, in succession, Sainz and Verstappen went into the Turn Four gravel, blamed on a gusty wind by Red Bull.

On lap 27, Leclerc slowed and pitted in anguish. “Oh no, no,” he cried, as he conceded the lead to Russell, with Ferrari later confirming a power unit failure.

Updated: May 22, 2022, 4:46 PM